By Roger LeBlanc
Families enjoyed a fall festival with an environmentally conscious twist this week at the annual Prince William Recycles Day celebration. The county landfill was given a seasonal makeover with hay bales, pumpkins and scarecrow decorations welcoming attendees to the event. County employees and local environmental organizations led activities educating the community on why recycling matters and how it can be practiced here in Prince William. A favorite activity was taking the tour of the landfill. The tour bus was full all day driving throughout the landfill giving families a chance to see waste management in action.
“What’s humbling to me is that every year we can fill a circus tent with people for an education event about recycling,” says Scott MacDonald, the county Recycling Manager. “We had 1,000 people come out last year, which speaks to what the community here values.”
Every day the average county resident produces 6.3 pounds of trash, and while the county recycles 36% of this waste, there is still a good portion of our landfill trash that could be diverted into recycling. At the current rate, the landfill is expected to have capacity to operate until 2065. The county is always looking for new ways to innovate and increase recycling to extend the landfill’s lifespan.
Puppeteers from the Good Life Theater performed at the event to encourage children to take responsibility for recycling. The pirate themed show spotlighted Captain Jack Spare Tire who led the audience in singing about the four “Arrrrrs” of waste reduction: “reduce, reuse, repair, and recycle”.
Songs highlighted the importance of protecting our home here on earth, and shared tips such as using reusable bags at the grocery store. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts giggled with delight as Captain Spare Tire made trash walk the plank to land in the recycling bins, with the reminder that trash is actually treasure waiting to be reborn through recycling.
“What I love most is seeing the children lighting up during our performances,” says Joe Pipuk, who has been doing puppetry for over forty years with his wife Jean Wall. “It is really special to hear stories of kids running home telling their parents they need to find out where they can recycle. That is very gratifying for us.”
In the main event tent, beautiful “up-cycled” art pieces were on display with dragons, castles, and masks all made out of 100% reused materials. Local high school aged youth contributed the art pieces. The top contestants were invited to display their art for the public to vote for the best in show. The top winner received a tablet donated by the waste and recycling company, Republic Services.
“Every year we are impressed with the level of art the students bring,” says Jennifer Boeder, the Environmental Program Manager for the county. “It’s incredible to think this is all made of trash and recycled material. We want to share with the public new ways to look at trash and recycling.”
Games, face painting, and good conversation were enjoyed throughout the event at the many booths and stations. Children colored to make their own customized reusable bags, and guests competed to answer recycling trivia questions to win prizes.
“I am glad to see the Prince William Service Authority out here giving out free water bottles,” says Sunny Nyhus, an event volunteer who was encouraged to participate by her Environmental Science teacher. “It’s important for people to know that drinking our water from the community is better than drinking bottled water which creates unnecessary waste.”
Almost 200 of the attendees took the “I Recycle” pledge, committing to pick up the good habits of recycling and buying more products made from recycled content. Those who missed the event can still take the pledge by Nov. 20 at americarecyclesday.org for the chance to win a $300 gift certificate to REI, donated by Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
The county will be hosting Prince William Recycles Day next year on Oct. 13, 2018. Additional information about Solid Waste Division programs and facilities is available at pwcgov.org/trashandrecycling.
The event was made possible by the many sponsors who donated funds, provided food, and led activities. Sponsors included Fortistar, SWS, American Disposal Services, Re-public Services, Davis Industries Inc., Aegis Environmental Inc., Air Water & Soil Labor-atories Inc., ARM Group Inc, Ash Britt, Broad Run Construction Waste Recycling, Burke & Herbert Bank, Daniel H Barrett Trucking Inc., ESI Enviro Solutions, Freestate Farms, GBB, Golder Associates, Keep Prince William Beautiful, Madera Farm LLC, MOM’s Organic Market, Patriot Disposal, Prince William Marina, Savers, SCS Engineers, Veolia, and 1-800-Got Junk?